Ways to Ask and Tell Time in Spanish – La Hora

Knowing how to ask and tell time in Spanish is very useful in everyday conversations. This lesson covers some common ways to ask what time it is, as well as some important differences between both languages when telling time you should be aware of. We will discuss some common mistakes to avoid and will introduce some useful time expressions in Spanish.

Ways to tell time in Spanish – Diciendo la hora

In order to tell time in Spanish, we normally use two forms of the irregular verb SER (to be): ES and SON. ES will be used only for the time when it is from 1:00 to 1:59, whereas SON will be used for the rest of the day. In simple words, “It is 1:30” would be translated into “Es la una y media” and “It is 2:30”into “Son las dos y treinta”. Here is the basic sentence structure to tell time in Spanish:

Es/son + la(s) + hora (time)
1. Es la una y veinte.
2. Son las cinco y cincuenta.

Asking time in Spanish – ¿Qué hora es?

Now, let’s learn how to ask what time it is.The most common and easiest way for asking time in Spanish is “¿Qué hora es?” This question means “What time is it?” but it is not a literal translation as we use the word HORA instead of TIEMPO. We may ask differently depending on the formality of the conversation. A more formal way for asking time would be adding the expression DISCULPE or DISCULPA as in “Disculpe, ¿Qué hora es?”. Listen to a few ways to ask and tell time in Spanish:

¿Qué hora es?Son las ocho en punto
What time is it? – It´s 8 o´clock
¿Qué hora es? – Faltan diez para las dos
What time is it? – It’s 10 to 2
¿Qué hora es? – Son las cuatro y veinticinco.
What time is it? – It´s 4:25
¿Qué hora es? – Es la una y treinta/ Es la una y media
What time is it? – It´s 1:30
Disculpe, ¿me puede decir la hora? – Son las ocho y cinco
Excuse me, can you tell me what time

Other ways to ask time in Spanish include ¿Qué tiempo/hora tienes? (informal) and ¿Me puede decir la hora? (Can you tell me the time?).

Asking for a specific time

In order to ask for the specific time of an activity, we should modify the original question a little bit adding the preposition “A” at the beginning and then “qué hora” as in “¿A qué hora…?” (What time do…), e.g. ¿A que hora nos vamos? (what time are we leaving?) and ¿A qué hora te levantas? (What time do you get up?). The answer will be a particular time of the day or some period of time, for example: “Nos vamos en 30 minutos” (We are leaving in 30 minutes) and “Yo me levanto a las 8 de la mañana” (I get up at 8 o´clock).

¿Cuánto tiempo te lleva/toma limpiar tu casa?
How long does it take you to clean your house?
¿A qué hora te vas?
What time are you leaving?

Useful expressions when talking about time in Spanish

Now we will talk about some very useful expressions when talking about time in Spanish that always come handy in different situations.

UN CUARTO PARA” (a quarter to)  – this phrase is often placed after the verb FALTAR (to lack/to be left) in the structure:

Falta/Faltan + time left + para la/las + hour
e.g. Falta un cuarto para las diez (it’s a quarter to ten )

MEDIA” (a half) – this will be used often following the structure above too: “Falta media hora para la una” (It’s a half hour to 1:00) or in a more simplified way “Es la una y media”.

The definite article LA will be used for time between 1:00 and 1:59 as in “La una y cincuenta”, whereas LAS is for any other time in as in “Las tres y treinta”.

Last, you can use the expressions “por/de la mañana“, “por/de la tarde” and “por/de la noche” to talk about a particular part of the day. Listen to some examples using these and other phrases for time in Spanish.

El programa comienza a las 7 de la mañana
The show starts at 7 in the morning.
Salimos del trabajo a las 2 de la tarde.
We get out of work at 2 in the afternoon
La fiesta comienza a las 10 de la noche.
The party starts at 10 at night.
Ayer fue un día ocupado
Yesterday was a busy day
Hoy es un buen día
Today is a good day
Mañana leeré (por) varias horas
Tomorrow I’ll read for several hours
Nos iremos en unos cuantos minutos
We will leave in some minutes

Language tip:

If you need to ask time in Spanish, especially to a stranger, it is better to use a polite question like Disculpe ¿me puede decir la hora? or Disculpe ¿qué hora es?

Lesson quiz: What time is it in Spanish?

This short quiz will test if you understand how to ask the time and how to give a proper answer as well. It is easy to solve and practical way to remember what was explained. ¡Buena suerte!